A raise on the flop in a fixed-limit game can mean your opponent has a good hand, but if they have a great hand, you’ll probably face a raise on the turn, when bets double. A raise on the flop can also be a semi-bluff from a player on a draw who hopes to get some more money in the pot. In this case, your opponent will also be satisfied if you fold and they win the pot right there.
Raising may also be an attempt to obtain a free card on a more expensive betting round. A player who raises on the flop, but can’t get his opponents to fold, will hope they all check the turn, so he or she can check too and take a free card. That free card may enable you to draw out on your opponents at half the price you would have paid by calling a small bet on the flop and another, bigger bet on the turn.
If an opponent raises on the flop, they may be signaling that they have a good hand already – or they could be on a draw and semi-bluffing
A raise on the turn usually means your opponent likes his or her hand and deferred raising until the betting limits doubled. This is a dangerous time for you and you’ll need to be very wary of what is in front of you. If you know nothing at all about your opponent – you’ve never played against any of them before and have no read on them whatsoever – and he or she raises on the turn, the message in this bottle is pretty clear: it’s likely they have a strong hand that can beat top pair/top kicker. You should save your ammunition for another battle, unless you think you have a much better hand than they do.
If he or she raises on the turn, where the bets double, your opponent most likely has a very strong hand.
Bluff-raising on the turn is uncommon in fixed-limit games, with the exception of five or six-handed online games, where they are quite common. But we’re talking full games here, not the short-handed variety. A raise on the river can never be a semi-bluff; there are no more cards to come and all hands are fully realized once the final card is dealt. A raise on the river typically comes from someone who has been helped by the river card. Players holding a big, made hand prior to the river usually raise on the turn.
But a river raise can also be a bluff; most of the time this comes from someone who is drawing hand hasn’t improved. This player can only win by bluffing. Tracking betting patterns and analyzing them against the cards that we’re dealt should help you determine when you’re confronting someone who bet with nothing more than a busted flush and a handful of hope.
The only time this analysis is likely to fail is when the river card either pairs your opponent’s kicker or connects with a pocket pair to complete a set. Assessing an opponent’s betting patterns against the cards that were dealt helps clarify whether the river card helped them. If the river card is a 5 – and the flop is 8-Q-K – how likely is your opponent to play his or her underpair into all of the betting and raising that’s likely to take place with three playable cards on the board?
A raise on the river may mean he has been helped by the last card or it could be a complete bluff – however it is never a semi-bluff because there are no more cards to come.